On April 20, 2021, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges in the death of George Floyd.
Today, our thoughts are with George Floyd’s family and loved ones. While many of us watched the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, and awaited the verdict, we recognize that Mr. Floyd’s family will never be the same. No verdict will bring Mr. Floyd back, but our criminal justice system is predicated on the idea that accountability is a first step toward healing. We hope that it will be so in this case.
Over the past year, the murder of Mr. Floyd sparked the expansion of a national and global civil rights movement. Millions are now calling for a reckoning with the well-documented reality that racial disparities infect the criminal and juvenile justice systems at all points—from initial contact and victimization, to detention and incarceration, to reentry into the community. As the protesters made clear, for many people, the result is a lack of confidence and trust in our nation’s justice system to keep them safe and produce fair and equitable outcomes. That confidence was further strained yesterday by the tragic police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, a teenage Black girl in Columbus, Ohio, just as many were hearing the verdict. This status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable.
The work required to reduce these racial disparities and to advance safety, equity, and justice is significant—and criminal justice agencies cannot do it alone. They will need to work with and listen to people directly impacted by the system, and they will need to lean into the lessons learned by states and localities that have instituted reforms that demonstrate that racial equity is not in tension with justice, but a pathway to it.
All of us at The Council of State Governments Justice Center are unequivocally committed to advancing racial equity within our organization and in our work with states and local communities. As we challenge leaders to critically think through their current approaches to public safety and justice, we will work together to implement evidence-based reforms. For example, in the coming weeks, we will launch a new initiative that will bring communities across the country together to explore who answers calls for service, particularly those that involve issues of mental health, substance use, and homelessness.
There is much more work to be done, and we will continue to support state and local officials committed to tackling racial inequities, offering second chances, and achieving safety and justice. Our fervent hope is that this moment serves as a turning point toward a more just justice system.
About the Author
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